The coincidence of Mary Hart and Vanna White achieving prominence in the same year (they both started in 1982, on Entertainment Tonight and Wheel of Fortune, respectively) has made me sort of link them in my mind and wonder which one would be the first to leave. Now we know that it’s Hart, who is stepping down to be replaced by Access Hollywood host Nancy O’Dell.
Despite the facile All About Eve comparison I tried to make in the subject heading, this isn’t actually that kind of situation at all; O’Dell isn’t being promoted from within, and while she’s younger than Hart, she’s not absurdly young (she’s 44; Hart is 60). All the fun scheming is not between hosts, but between shows: seeing Entertainment Tonight poach its’ competitor’s co-host seems like a rubbing-it-in kind of move, particularly given that ET has more viewers. I feel like pushing Hart away could backfire, since she’s so much a part of the show; she is to ET what Vanna is to Wheel of Fortune, only more so because there’s no male host who’s had the same longevity. On the other hand, that might just be childhood nostalgia talking, since I not only think she’s an essential part of ET, I think Leonard Maltin is too.
And yes, Entertainment Tonight is still popular (on a list of top 10 syndicated shows); it may have more competition than it once did, but there’ll always be a place for softball celebrity-gossip coverage, because, well, people like celebrity stories and they want a show that covers these stories in a manner that suggests celebrities are likable.
One person who will not miss Mary Hart’s voice on the TV: Cosmo Kramer.